Wednesday Lunch: MLS MVP Race

Posted: August 24, 2011 in mls, professional sports, soccer, sports
Tags: , , , , , ,

By Evan Ream

With the 2011 MLS season winding down, I wanted to take a closer look at the MLS MVP race. As it always an award that sparks much debate (last year I was in favor of Chris Wondolowski over David Ferreira), I would like to give my two cents to the discussion. Each team has ten games or fewer left, and it will be what each player does over the last games that most people remember. But before I get to my shortlist of candidates, I would like to first take a closer look at what I think the definition of an MVP is.

Many times the voters will vote simply for the best player on the best team for MVP. While doing so may seem like it makes sense, it doesn’t. MVP stands for Most Valuable Player, and if I understand that correctly, that means the player isn’t the best in the league but rather the most valuable. In theory, the league’s MVP would be the player who if taken away from his team, would cause the most damage to that team. A good example of a misunderstanding of this definition would be last year’s “case” for Sebastien Le Toux. In 2010 Le Toux scored 14 goals and added 11 assists for the expansion Philadelphia Union. Le Toux was the heart and soul of that team and a few blogs (such as the Shin Guardian) pleaded for people to vote for him. This was a mistake. Le Toux’s Union finished 8-7-15, good for seventh place in the Eastern Conference and 14th overall. Without Le Toux, how much worse would they have been? One place?

The clear MVP of 2010 was Chris Wondolowski. Wondo scored more than half of San Jose’s goals and led a mediocre team to the playoffs. Without him, they wouldn’t have made the playoffs. No player meant MORE to his team than Wondo. That is the true definition of a Most Valuable Player.

So who has been this year’s MVP? Thierry Henry was getting a lot of love until everyone realized that his Red Bulls might not make the playoffs. Landon Donovan has lit up the score sheet this year, but David Beckham has been just as good, and now he has Robbie Keane as well. Brad Davis leads the league in assists but has just nine shots on goal. Dwayne De Rosario has put up nine goals and eight assists but played for three different teams. All of these are solid candidates with one thing missing. Each of these drawbacks are too much for any of these players to be considered the MVP which leaves one candidate: Brek Shea.

Before the 2011 MLS season started, FC Dallas lost one of their best players in Dax McCarty to the expansion draft. It was widely believed that Schellas Hyndman, who was inexperienced in the league, messed up leaving McCarty unprotected. After this, Dallas converted Brek Shea to a center back, and then lost 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira to injury. Shea, after some mediocre performances, proceeded to go back to his natural left midfield position and scored ten goals through 25 games. Oh, and did I mention that Dallas is just seven points behind their 2010 point total with four fewer games played?

Brek Shea has been nothing short of amazing this year; just look at the goals he has scored. After his team leading ten goals, the next leading goal scorer is Marvin Chavez with five followed by David Ferreira, who has played in just six games, with three. Shea has scored nearly a third of Dallas’ goals for a team that hasn’t scored that many. Obviously, he has had help defensively with George John, who is set to leave for Blackburn Rovers, and Captain Daniel Hernandez leading the way, but Dallas has just a plus six goal differential.

Goals have been at a premium for Dallas, and Brek Shea has scored some important ones. Half of Shea’s goals have been game winning goals; the most in the league. Shea also hasn’t had the benefit of taking his team’s penalty kicks this year, giving him fewer opportunities on goal. In addition, Shea has been one of the best finishers this year. His 20 shots on goal make him just 15th in the league in that category but he has converted half of them.

At 21, Shea is still very young; if he were to win the MVP, he would be the youngest ever player to do so, but his age should not detract from his accomplishments. Shea hasn’t been the best player this year in MLS; that has been Thierry Henry. Shea’s team aren’t in first place, nor are they the team with the best chance to win MLS cup. Shea has simply been the Most Valuable Player this year in MLS.

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